Critique – ‘Proximity’ (2006, Inger Lise Hansen)

Produced in 2006. The film is deceptively simple, establishing a shot format from the onset that does not change throughout its near 4 minute duration. There are very slight variations to scene composition, but essentially the film is a series of upside down images of beach and sky stitched together as time lapse. There are no sudden changes, although there is an almost pastoral dynamic. The odd upside down car zips along erratically (thanks to the manual time lapse technique) on what must be a road near to the inverted horizon point, a few distant people scurry back and forth similarly. The only camera movement is sideways which results in interesting perspective play as features such as striations in the sand are seen from progressive view points resulting in some classic visual distortions. The upside down-ness of the film is possibly it’s killer feature – as our eyes adjust to the initially strange image and stop trying to invert it, we become disoriented and begin to see an opposite geometric arrangement – almost an Escher-like illusion is created. Like a word that is repeated over and over again until it sounds meaningless, the viewer is led to question the very essence of what they are looking at – inverted beach and sky or abstract form?

Upside down images must be particularly resonant to our subconscious brains as the image that gets projected onto the back of the retina throughout our lives is actually upside down – it is somehow left to the ‘software’ of our brains to rectify this ‘hardware’ deficiency. Perhaps it is this neural ‘software’ that Hansen is targeting?

All time lapse has a feeling of de/reconstructed time and Proximity certainly promotes this dimension although the idea of scenes being presented in order brings a certain sense of comforting familiarity which helps the viewer to mitigate the disconcerting effect of upside down film! There are 4 distinct scenes – what looks like a sunrise scene followed by 2 brighter and a final darker scene in which drops of water seem to appear in the sky portion of the image making it look more like a sea lapping the beach.

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